The perception among most shippers is that the reliability of UPS and FedEx is superior to that of the regional carriers. The reality, however, is that the more sophisticated regional services are as efficient or even more efficient than the giants, partly due to the fact that they have caught up in their use of technology.. 

When you’re considering express parcel services, whatever their size, you should put the perspective service to an overall performance test. And before you select a carrier, your criteria should include quality along with price and flexibility. 

The following checklist may be helpful in this process: 

Ask about the carrier’s quality index, which tracks errors such as missed pickups for premium overnight as well as deferred ground service deliveries. An acceptable level of performance for on-time delivery should exceed 96%. 

Also look into the number of damaged, lost, or stolen packages that result in claims, and ask carriers to divulge their records of claims, which they compute based on the amount of yearly Bills of Lading compared to the number of filed claims. Note the dollar value of the claims expressed as a percentage of the carrier’s total revenue (the industry average is .50%.). 

Safe Driving
You should also expect the service to document its safe driving programs, and then determine the carrier’s number of accidents and workers’ compensation costs. Check the “Mod (Modification) Factor” of the carrier by visiting the National Council on Compensation Insurance: The industry average is 1.0%. 

As far as documenting the use of advanced technology, here are some prerequisites:

• Web-based shipping and tracking and tracing. This is a must. 

• Bar-coding and scanning. All shipments should be bar-coded to protect confidentiality and expedite tracking. Packages should be scanned at pickup, sort, delivery load, and point of delivery to ensure shipment visibility.

• Mobile scanners. Handheld and wireless barcode scanners ensure accurate, immediate documentation of packages. Drivers should carry scanners to track proof of delivery and provide electronic signature capture and online upload in real time? 

• Instant communication. Drivers should use radio/cellular dispatch, not just beepers.

• Shipping integration systems. Proprietary software should be available.

• Automated sorting and handling. Overhead parcel scanning should be state of the art. 

• Automated shipping and billing options. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and reference billing allow information to be sorted by date or another coding system. This promotes accuracy and expedites charge-backs. 

• Management reports. The “super regionals” provide this service within 24 hours, which is faster than the giants can guarantee.

These days, with the stakes in the shipping industry higher than ever, companies are more cautious about how much their shipments cost and how quickly they arrive. Accordingly, they are conducting due diligence and not making quick decisions about their service provider. 

While shippers have always been concerned about lower costs and faster delivery, higher quality is just as important in the equation. When shippers put their carriers to the test, they may discover that they can have it all..

Ted Kauffman is Chairman of Eastern Connection, the largest regional small-package overnight carrier on the East Coast and covers over 6,800 zip codes in the Northeast. The company, which has 16 facilities, is open 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Services include Next-Day Ground, Priority Overnight, Same-Day, Second-Day, Logistics & Warehousing, Trucking, Medical Logistics, and Expedited Mail. For more information, visit